Refreshingly, venerable house Audemars Piguet has chosen as its “face” someone who actually knows something about watches. Not an athlete, hip-hopper or actor: instead, Claudio Cavaliere is someone who just “gets” it.
It seems that Audemars Piguet has created a one-of-a-kind title for you, as you are part of the brand and not a token celebrity?
Global Brand Ambassador is the title they’ve bestowed upon me, which makes sense. I joined Audemars Piguet in June 2007, first as Head of Watchmaking Products, then as Head of Product Marketing, and I am happy to mark my 10th anniversary with the brand this year. In 2014, I was named Global Brand Ambassador. In this role, I have been given overall responsibility for deploying the messages and identity of Audemars Piguet.
According to your official biography, you bring the brand’s stories alive, communicating them to the sales force and external parties. What mix of experiences and talent created this skill set?
I began my career in watches exactly 20 years ago as Project Manager for product development and industrialisation for the Movado group. Because I am of Italian heritage but born in Switzerland [in Geneva on 26 January 1972], I combine the genes and geography of the two most important countries in horology: Swiss for the manufacturing, Italian for the taste and appreciation. I hold a degree in mechanical engineering and business management as well. From 2003 to 2007, I worked as Project Manager for the Gucci Watches group, subsequently becoming Head of Product Marketing.
You seem to possess that rare mix of understanding both the manufacturing of watches and the culture of watch connoisseurs. How did that develop?
When I started out in watchmaking, I met people who gave me real opportunities. They gave me the desire to understand the aesthetic and technical aspects of watches, and passed on their passion for timepieces.
You’ve moved from fashion watches to a brand at the pinnacle of haute horlogerie. What drew you to Audemars Piguet? How does this manifest itself in your unique position?
I like the brand’s spirit of independence and its history. Here we work with things that are real, that have substance. It’s a great strength. [Being part of Audemars Piguet] I want to introduce people to the authentic stories about the brand and its products, which in my view are the fundamental values of haute horlogerie. Who we are, where we come from, where we are going.
Of late, the new Royal Oaks have been decorative, such as the 40th anniversary designed with Carolina Bucci, or experimental like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie or exercises in materials and looks, with ceramic or carbon cases, or skeletonised movements. Will we see new models that return to the action/ adventure/tool-watch character of the Offshore family?
We will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Royal Oak Offshore next year so we will definitely be coming up with new models including new materials and new designs. But it is still slightly too early to give you the details – let’s talk again in November.
Audemars Piguet created the high-end sport-watch genre that is now dominated by a handful of watches and brands. How do you see the Royal Oak relative to these rivals and its positioning in the market place?
To this day, the Royal Oak remains a trendsetter among its competitors: it was the first model of the luxury sports watch category and it has become a true icon. However, it takes more than one watch to populate a whole category, and all of our competitors’ models have their place. They each have their own personality: you can draw similarities in terms of design and inspiration but what we infuse into our models is very different from what other brands do, for instance.
Online voices have recently been criticising the Royal Oak for stasis. How do you respond to the criticism that the brand may be a one-trick pony?
Many brands can only dream of having such an icon as the Royal Oak and we are very proud to count it within our portfolio. There is always something coming up, not only with the Royal Oak but with Audemars Piguet in general. Just stay tuned for some more surprises.